In October, Duke made a watershed announcement: It would become the first college basketball program to install STATS LLC’s SportVU cameras in its arena, ESPN reports.
For years, NBA franchises have been recording, compiling and analyzing the data that SportVU’s all-seeing wide-angle lenses provide. This summer, the league announced that every NBA arena would install the technology. College basketball has lagged behind for obvious financial and logistical reasons, but Duke’s news made the presumed SportVU trickle-down a matter of if, not when. Sooner or later, big data was coming to college hoops.
Thursday, Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry showed just how far ahead the NBA really is. But even more important is what Goldsberry’s piece implies about how much anyone who watches and loves the game of basketball — at any level — stands to gain.
Goldsberry, a Harvard visiting scholar and geography Ph.D., has been making spatial NBA maps for years. These charts are always insightful, even when they merely reinforce how insanely good LeBron James is.
But Goldsberry’s piece Thursday dives much deeper. It begins as anecdotal demonstration — so here’s why the Spurs are really good — and ends as a full-fledged state of affairs, with the story of how two Harvard statistics whiz kids managed to divine some wisdom out of the trove of data the SportVU cameras laid at Goldsberry’s lap.